WESTFIELD, NJ — Authorities are investigating after swastikas were found drawn at Westfield High School, school officials said.
Principal Mary Asfendis told parents Friday afternoon that the district notified police, quickly removed the symbols and is working with law enforcement to find the culprit.
“These types of actions are taken extremely seriously by school administration and are not tolerated,” Asfendis said in the statement. “Law enforcement was immediately notified, and we are continuing investigate the incident. Following documentation of the incident, the symbols were promptly removed.”
School officials did not detail where at the high school the symbols were found, how the symbols were discovered and when they were revealed. School officials, however, offered strong words of condemnation.
“Hate of any kind against anyone is not who we are as a district nor will it be tolerated,” said Superintendent Margaret Dolan in a statement. “The more than 6,000 students who acted with respect for others today and every day deserve no less.”
Asfendis, in her message to parents, said she would be speaking with students about hate on Monday.
“I will be addressing the student body on Monday morning to denounce hate in all forms at Westfield High School and let students know that it will not be tolerated,” Asfendis said.
Asfendis and Dolan both said the investigation continues. They also referenced a program the district has begun in coordination with the Anti-Defamation League, which is an anti-hate organization.
“We hope to determine who committed this act,” Dolan said. “We appreciate our partnership with the parent community in speaking with their children as we work to combat hate. We also hope that our work with the Anti-Defamation League and its program, ‘No Place for Hate,’ will support our efforts to educate all of our students.”
The issue of hateful graffiti is not a new one for the Westfield School District.
In December 2018, Westfield police charged a 13-year-old boy at Edison Intermediate School in connection with hateful graffiti depicted on the bathroom walls of that school. It was one in a series of incidents involving swastikas and other hateful graffiti reported at local public schools that year, including at the high school.
In a letter sent to parents June 14, then Westfield High School Interim Principal James DeSarno advised that swastikas had been drawn in the high school. — “Recently, we have encountered swastikas drawn in our school,” DeSarno said.
DeSarno had placed the anti-Semitic incidents at the high school in the context of a rise in hate crimes nationwide.
“There were nearly 4,000 documented anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. over the past two years, making 2017 and 2018 two of the three highest on record for such incidents over the past four decades,” DeSarno said. “In addition, last fall saw the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history at the Tree of Life Synagogue.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh